What happens in Vegas, DOES NOT always stay in Vegas

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(Photo Credit GolfChannel)

With a large number of our clients being in the field of education, we understand that security is top of mind, not only for your technology, but for the people you are responsible for: clients, employees, students, etc. The mass shooting in Las Vegas Sunday evening is a scary reminder that those who wish to do innocent people harm will find a way, no matter what their motivation. This horrific tragedy is the worst to date on American soil with the most recent count of 58 dead and over 500 injured either directly because of the shooting or in the ensuing chaos to follow.  Most of us probably know someone that was immediately impacted by this tragedy.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those immediately involved,the victims, the first responders, and the rest of the city, as well as the family and friends worried about their loved ones.

 

Gunman in Las Vegas kills at least 58, injures 500 more in shooting rampage

 

Congratulations, St. Ignatius!

Congratulations to our client, St. Ignatius Catholic School in Meridian, Idaho, for a successful opening!

They were recently featured in Idaho Ed News, not only for their opening, but for their new approach on education.

Read more …

Another day, another app, another dollar!

Not sure how many can relate to this example, but stick with me.  The 4 year old in the house has recently learned how to download apps to the various family devices.  Of course anything with a purchase still requires password. (I learned that the hard way 6 years ago when her brother was about 4.)  But the free ones seem to mysteriously show up on a regular basis.  Next thing you know I have 100 apps on my tablet with no clue which ones are being used, how often they are being used, etc. And I admit, I’m constantly looking for new apps that will help improve productivity for myself. Just the other day I was wondering if there was a way I could tell how much the application was being used if not at least the last time it was opened.

Obviously the same can be true in business.  You might not have Talking Tom, Talking Angela, and 20 of their other friends and family on you devices (seriously, how many talking animal apps are out there?!?!?).  But you might have multiple education apps designed to do similar things as you try to find the one that best meets the classroom’s or students’ needs. Some for education, some for entertainment, some for organization …

Well now CatchOn and Google have fostered a relationship that should help school administrators streamline the process of analyzing which apps to keep and which to send to the recycling bin. “CatchOn delivers real-time data on which apps are being used, how often and where to help keep track of technology investments. The administrative tool is designed to measure the financial impact of apps by analyzing district data, revealing the percentage of the budget per app and comparing it with the consumption across an entire district. “CatchOn is the first administrative tool that provides real-time data across every app, device and operating system used in districts,” according to a company representative.” (CatchOn and Google Team Up to Offer Usage Data on Chromebooks

Of course the caution comes in making sure that you have everything in your school or district being backed up regularly.  So if you aren’t already positive that’s happening, talk to your West Valley Technical Services representative to be sure you aren’t deleting something and its accompanying files that you can never get back without having some confidence. Also, if you would like help in transitioning to this new service being offered by CatchOn and Google, talk to us today to get you started.  Resources can be tight when it comes to technology in education.  Make sure you are using them wisely.

These ain’t your grandpa’s viruses

Cranky old grandpa“Back in my day we didn’t have these computer things.  You wanted to write to someone you mailed a letter. None of this  ‘EEE-mail’ stuff. If you wanted to buy something, you went to the store.  You didn’t hand over all your personal info through a keyboard.”

I don’t consider myself that old and I still remember email being new.  I also remember how threatened we felt by an email link or attached file that might make the screen go black.  Or worse, make you lose a few files.

If only it were that simple still.

Threats of viruses, and worse, ransomware, can absolutely debilitate a company. “Ransomware, you may remember, is a nasty computer virus designed to hold data hostage until you pay a specific fee.”(Ransomware: A malicious gift that keeps on giving) Can you image having your systems locked and all you data held by some cyber pirate until you pay to have it released, or lose it forever?  These attacks are on a global range. They are finding that some aren’t even about the money but the idea of bring a area of transportation, information, and more down to a screeching halt. And I’m sure even the smallest companies and communities assume they are safe.  I mean, who even knows where Idaho is let alone think we have anything of value here.  But just like a cold virus you could be getting while traveling, no one can truly predict the how or when of obtaining this type of threat to your company or organization.

Standard virus protection provided by most new devices may not be enough to truly protect your network from crashing down or being held hostage by some crook looking to make a few (thousand or million) dollars. Having a more sophisticated system in place can literally save your company more than just a tiny headache. If you aren’t sure about your current virus protection, contact your West Valley Technical Service technician to have an evaluation done and suggestion made that could save you from TODAY’S threats.

 

Secure Your Android

I don’t know about your school, office, or even household.  But in mine, it’s like Dueling Banjos when it comes to Apple vs Android. Can’t we all just get along?

Yeah, right.

So if you are familiar with the debate, you probably understand there are already a bunch of differences.

I had to laugh the other day when my husband sent me “This is the easiest way to prevent malware on your Android device” from Apple News (from one of his many Apple devices). I was waiting to see a punch line instead of an article, like ‘just throw your Android away and get an Apple.’ But for those of us that love our Android devices, one of the main reasons is the incredible availability of apps, both through Google Play Store and other outside sources. And usually much cheaper than Apple Store versions.

But with that kind of ‘freedom’ (Happy post-Memorial Day by the way) comes a responsibility to know what you are downloading or it could result in malware being installed on your device and other very serious issues that can affect your device. “By default, Google prevents users from installing apps from sources other than the Play store. The best way to protect yourself is to leave the installation of apps from unknown sources disabled. It’s a good idea to double-check that the setting is still disabled, just to be safe.” (article)  And I couldn’t agree more.  That is probably the most basic thing you can do.  “When downloading apps it’s imperative that you only do so from a legitimate app store; that means from companies like Google, Amazon, Samsung, or another major manufacturer or carrier. These marketplaces are monitored and scanned for potentially dangerous or fraudulent programs. On occasion, however, malicious apps sometimes slip through the cracks, often disguised as legitimate ones.” (Protect your android device from malware)

You can also find a security app that will scan apps you download for any potential issues.  I personally have Lookout on my phone, a free app in the Google Play Store. You can find and other tested anti-virus software for your android on CNET.

So if you love your Android like I do, and get sick of people telling you how unsecure your device is, or that your information can be easily compromised, rest assured.  There are ways to protect yourself from malware and still enjoy the freedom and flexibility of an Android device. And if you are concerned that maybe you might have suspicious activity or applications on your device, remember that’s a great time to contact your West Valley Technical Services technician.  We can clean, secure, and make your devices more efficient. Remember, even if you are upgrading to a newer device, a questionable app moved over to it can continue to cause you issues.

Spring has sprung, get that cleaning done!

It’s a given that when the sun starts shining through those windows, you immediately notice all the dust and clutter that has been gather around you over the winter. Yes, that even applies to our technology.  Seems like the dust is in my keyboard, the fingerprints are all over my screens, and … what is that sticky stuff on my phone today!?!?!

Make sure you are using the right products for the right devices to remove, dust, fingerprints, and hiding bacteria and germs (yep, they ARE hiding out on your devices just WAITING to bring back last month’s sniffles.) PopSugar actually had a fun article out back in November called The Easiest Ways to Properly Clean Your Phone. “Neglecting to clean your cell phone is a nasty tech habit to break …(they) have been proven to carry bacteria, germs, even feces.” Eeeewww.  Yep. Pretty gross.  And those of you in schools thought the desks were gross.

Even USA Today posted a great little video on March 21st called 4 ways to declutter your technology for Spring Cleaning.  With tips on cleaning the outside of your devices, they go on to talk about some important things to think about on the INSIDE of you devices as well. Remember the tip you learned about when to finally part ways with clothes in your closet? “If you haven’t opened it in the last 5 years, delete it.”  Best quote, “We promise you. Your resume from 2012 isn’t useful.”  If you are really concerned about deleting it forever (yeah, I get it, I’m one of those people, too) let West Valley Technical Services help you find the best backup solution.

But one of the other topics they hit on, as does OtterBox in Technology Spring Cleaning, isn’t just deleting old files, but backing up photos and videos.  Create a little space so your device can operate more efficiently.  OtterBox also reminds you to get rid of your old devices properly.  Although you may want to go viral with a great video of blowing it up.  Consider instead donating it or recycling it.  Not sure how?  That’s OK.  Your West Valley Technical Services consultant can most certainly help you find the best way to get it out of your storage area.

And once you have gotten rid of the dinosaurs, cracked screens, and tablets that aren’t as good as the case they are in anymore, your WVTS technician can help you find new products to meet those needs.  Or even refurbished ones if you’re looking for something more budget friendly.

Get to work!  Those dust bunnies aren’t gonna hop away on their own.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 16)

Q) How old is too old when it comes to a computer? 

A) Computers aren’t like cars or appliances that are designed to last for decades before being replaced.  And even if a computer does survive years of service, chances are it won’t even support whatever the latest software needs are.  As a general rule of thumb, 5 to 7 years tends to be the average lifespan for computer equipment.  The standard warranty on computers is rarely longer than one year, and the longest we have ever seen is 5 years and even that was only on government purchases.  So if your machine has lasted you 7 years or more, you should be proud of it, but consider purchasing a newer system if it starts to act up.  Chances are, it’s not worth spending money on to repair at that point.  As always, we will point you in the right direction should you reach out to us.

Q) I don’t see anything on my screen at all, but my computer is turned on.  What does that mean?

A) The very first thing we check in cases like this is to make sure the cable that connects the monitor to your computer hasn’t come disconnected for whatever reason.  You’d be surprised how often that is the cause!  If that checks out, you’ll want to make sure the monitor is getting power (another common occurrence.)  If all the connections are solid and everything is getting power, there is a chance that there is a hardware issue with the PC itself.  In those cases, it’s a better idea to reach out to a local PC repair shop or a professional that is willing to come to where the PC is to look at it.  If you are in the Boise, Idaho area, we would be happy to make a quick housecall in a case like this.

Q) How can I print from my mobile device?

A) MObile printing used to be a big hassle, requiring special apps and proprietary printers.  In the last few years, both Apple and Google have made it much easier to print from their devices, however.  All you really need to do is look for printers that support “AirPrint” if you use Apple devices, and/or “Google Cloud Print” if you use Android devices.  Keep in mind that the printer(s) will need to be connected to the same wireless network as your mobile devices in the case of Apple devices.  In the case of Google devices, the printer just needs to have a connection to the Internet and be added to the same Google account that the mobile device uses (or be shared with that account.)  If that sounds a bit too complicated, we can give you a hand setting up either one, too 🙂

How technology improves employee retention

One of the biggest problems facing most organizations, and usually the most expensive, is retaining good employees.  Losing employees means lost productivity.  Hiring new employees costs money to locate, interview, and train them.  The same is true no matter what the industry and sector.

 

You wouldn’t think that the shortage of professional teachers might be caused by losing teachers to more than just age-forced retirement. I mean, teaching is such a great gig, right? (insert sarcastic face)  Teachers do what they do because they love their clients … the kids.  Not because they make lots of money and they are great chances for advancement. According to Stop Driving Teachers Out Of The Classroom — Focus Instead On Keeping Them There  in Forbes, a growing number of teachers are retiring because the work is no longer worth the trade-off of time and resources they are forced to commit. “Constant upheavals in the curriculum, in testing regimes and even the way teachers are expected to teach have resulted in enormous strains on teachers, leaving many to feel they have no option but to leave the profession.”  Although the article takes on a more ‘it’s the government’s fault’ type attitude, it brings a very valid point to light.  Is the technology in the schools the best that district can afford and providing what teachers and student need to be keeping up with the workload and expectations of them?

 

A large number of private sector jobs are also the same. Not all employees are corporate ladder climbers.  They want a stable job, where they feel they are appreciated and compensated commensurate to their output.  When the employee no longer feels that the security of the position, the pay, or the benefits are worth how hard they are having to work, they will choose to move on to other employment if they can.  In addition, hiring and retaining employees new to the workforce might prove difficult if the technology in the office isn’t helping them do their jobs … sometimes even holding them back.

 

Technology may be replacing some jobs (that’s a whole other blog article), but it is supposed to HELP people DO their jobs.  Supplying teachers with training that is appropriate and innovative.  Providing resources that help reduce or eliminate tedious work, clutter, and miscommunication increases productivity and job satisfaction. Providing staff with organizational and productivity tools (and the training they need to use them) might seem like an unnecessary expense when ‘the old way works fine.’ But you may be incurring MORE expense when you are having to look for new employees.

 

When you start planning out this year’s professional conferences to attend and come back with loads of great ideas and things you can be implementing in your organization, remember to give your West Valley Technical Services technician a call to help you make those transitions as smooth as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (Part 15)

Q) Why does my computer take forever to connect to the internet?

A) It’s actually normal to take a few seconds for a computer to establish a network connection when it first boots up.  If you are having trouble connecting during the course of regular use, however, there may be another issue at play.  If you are on a wireless connection, there are a lot of variables that can affect it.  Interference from other wireless devices in the near vicinity can slow your connection down or even interrupt it, as well as non-computer devices like microwaves or cordless phones in close proximity.  If this is your situation, I’d recommend reaching out to a local IT professional to have them troubleshoot your connection, or if you can, switch over to a wired connection to avoid any potential interference.

Q) Do I need an anti-virus program on my tablet?

A) As a general rule, you shouldn’t, although there has been some malware written for Android devices that you may want to protect yourself from if that’s what you are using.  If you have an iOS device, as long as you don’t jailbreak it, you should be fine without anything.  Our suggestion would be to use “AVAST Mobile Security” if you have an Android device and want that added peace of mind

Q) My laptop battery won’t hold a charge.  What should I do?

A) Batteries are the one component of laptops that the manufacturer knows will stop working at some point, and are typically not covered under warranty as a result.  If you ever encounter a laptop that won’t hold a charge, the first thing to try is to order a replacement battery from Amazon.com by searching for your laptop’s model number.  Most batteries cost between $20-$100, so it’s a fairly cheap repair, and most batteries just have a release switch on the bottom of the laptop to remove them.  Just make sure you turn the laptop off completely before changing the battery!  Don’t put it in standby!  If the battery still won’t charge after replacing it with a new one, then the laptop will need service and you will need to determine if it’s worth it to repair at that point

Classroom and Business Applications of Virtual Reality

The opening line to the article Virtual Reality in the Classroom quotes XQ Super Classrooms and suggests that while the world has gone from simple to simply amazing, classrooms have been ‘frozen in time.’  As the daughter of an Idaho teacher, and parent of two school aged children, I would disagree.  Although resources might limit some districts from supplying the type of classrooms they would dream about, most have made valiant efforts to ‘keep up with the times.’

How many of us had a ‘whiteboard’ you could touch and have it take you to the internet … wait did we have internet back then either?

Virtual reality might seem like a ‘new’ technology.  But it has been around for decades.  How many people remember ‘virtual simulators’ used to train pilots? But the true advancement has gone from taking a technology that was fairly boring and 2 dimensional, to quite literally allowing the user to ‘feel’ like the are part of the scene they are seeing. One of the hottest Christmas presents this year, but one that has many more applications than just gaming and relaxing, is virtual reality, or more specifically, virtual reality headsets or viewers.

But what might that popular Christmas gift be used for outside of personal use? What applications might virtual reality have in the classroom and in business?

It’s being used to train teachers. (Virtual Classrooms: A Vision of the Future of Teacher Training)

Students can not only see historical and geographical sites they are studying, but be immersed in the experience.

Imagine an art class going on a field trip, not to the local museum, but the Louvre Museum

Imagine the possibilities for homeschoolers and students in remote areas!

In business the possibilities are just as exciting.  As mentioned in “6 amazing uses for virtual reality in business” how about training employees by recording complex trainings that allow new employees to be part of the office without walking them around and showing them where everything is.  What about previewing new office locations, job sites, construction projects from miles away. Can you image how this could change real estate for both the seller and buyer?

Imagine the possibilities as more and more applications become available for VR devices.  Many are already being developed. Let West Valley Technical Services help you find the products and services to make virtual reality a true reality in your office.

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